Recorded live at NYC's The Stone, Set Theory
constitutes the third release by Flow Trio, following its excellent studio set, Rejuvenation
(ESP, 2009) and an earlier live disc, like this one, on Ayler Records. An appropriate home for this band, as it happens, for the legendary Albert Ayler
looms large in Flow Trio mainstay, saxophonist Louie Belogenis
' personal pantheon, alongside John Coltrane
. Though undersung as a unit, the trio's joint pedigree is impressive, covering a galaxy of free jazz talent: sometime guitarist Joe Morris
handles bass duties here, but has recorded with reedmen as diverse as David S. Ware
and Anthony Braxton
, while drummer Charles Downs
(formerly known as Rashid Bakr) has manned the trap set for pianist Cecil Taylor
and improvising super group Other Dimensions In Music.
Together, they present three expansive, collectively forged improvisations totaling some 55-minutes, defined by their organic evolution, restrained passion and egalitarian nature. The musicianship is top notch. Belogenis often pitches slow burning emotionally-drenched tenor saxophone incantations against faster rhythms which produce a dramatically heightened tension. Downs is a master: he listens, explores timbre yet at the same time maintains a pulse, all without overwhelming. Morris' busy pizzicato affords propulsion allied to an unceasing oblique commentary.
There is an ease and sophistication in their interplay. Each track goes through multiple moods. Duos and solos emerge naturally from the flow. On "Set Theory," after a minimalist passage punctuated by unexpected drum crashes, Belogenis brooding tenor keens over an arco drone and rumbling drums which pick up an abstract Latin vibe. The piece finishes with the reedman's full-toned soprano spiraling ever higher, wafted on a loose bass vamp. More fine moments come on "InfinTrinity": Morris' swirling bow work blends winningly with falsetto tenor early on, while later the saxophonist's guttural choked over-blowing provides another highlight. "The End of Certainty" acts as a ballad-style coda, packing intense mournful soprano saxophone and a sinewy plucked bass feature within its seven-minute span, to round off this sometimes inspired document in style.